TYLT Tunz bluetooth streamer impresses, with caveats (December 30th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: TYLT
- Balanced, strong sound - Battery Life - 2800 mAh battery - Doubles as a backup battery
- Prioritizes sound over charging at 50 percent capacity - NFC nags to install a management app when used - Long charge times
Every company that can design an enclosure and cram some speakers into it is vying for the eye of music aficionados. There is no end in sight for the numerous configurations of Bluetooth-enabled speakers for those that need something greater than the sound a mobile device offers -- at some point the market will hit maximum saturation. Until then, companies like Tylt (pronounced 'tilt') will throw their hat into the ring with devices like the Tunz Speaker. Does this speaker easily join a field full of mediocre sounds? Or will their Bluetooth offering rise with the cream to the top?
The Tunz speaker certainly doesn't look like much inside the box. It's a compact speaker that fits in a palm without much hassle with its widest edge at only 5.3 inches. Peaks finished in a gloss black shine in the night on the front grill. Large porting in the back offers plenty of room for air to pump through the chamber, and for the reflexive bass to kick in. In fact the bass design looks very similar to the Braven 600 speaker. Overall, the look is simple, but does have a little flair to it when it comes to the shock bands that wrap around its exterior. The kit comes with red, blue, and black bands for whatever suits your fashion needs at the moment. The matte black rubberized coating feels solid in the hand, but attracts tons of fingerprints.
Controls on the Tunz Speaker are easy to use, and blend in quite well to the design of the speaker. Rather than normal buttons, the speaker uses capacitive touch to navigate one of the three buttons on top, two for volume and one for multipurpose. These buttons are rather sensitive, as a light touch on the multifunction button was putting the speaker into pairing mode rather easily. Just remember to flip on the power switch, or pressing buttons will be for naught.
The speaker also offers NFC tags. However, whenever hitting it with an NFC enabled device on its left side, it wants to prompt the user to download an app to manage the NFC and the speaker. Casual users won't mind, but suspicious users will always be annoyed by the prompting. Unless you install the app, the prompt to download will always pop up. This caused us to simply abandon the NFC usage of the Tunz.
What really matters is the sound, anyway. Not the annoying noises it makes when turning on or voices when it pairs with a device. No, the Tunz has a room presence. For as small as the speaker is, it has a great deal of sound output. Considering that it has two three-watt drivers inside, it isn't surprising that it is suitable for even living room listening. While there is no outstanding sound note in terms of screaming highs or bass crunching lows, it must be noted that the Tunz puts out a very balanced sound. No one attribute sticks out, but they don't blend together either. A compressed, digital recording is favored, but a tape recording does just as well in picking out notes and voices. Bass breaks up the most at higher levels, but there isn't a whole lot of room in this compact speaker for the drivers to flex for deep bass.
TYLT states that the Tunz Speaker is going to top out at 80dB, but tests showed that it was able to crank out much more. At a range of one foot, decibel readings came in at 92.8, 92.1, and 90.7dB for each tested song. Even at three feet, one song broke the 80dB cap at 81.7dB. Be warned, at 100 percent volume (as in these tests), the speaker is prone to distortion and chatter. That is to be expected for these types of speakers, though. These levels are safe for prolonged listening, but they are still strong at the upper volume levels even past nine feet away. It should be noted that the speaker does emit a loud, intermittent "pop" when it starts to lose signal. This wasn't really experienced as an interruption until it was past 30 feet in the testing environment.
An added bonus -- and we're all about the multifunction -- is that the Tunz Speaker also acts as a backup battery. Next to the 3.5mm input and outputs (you can cable tie two of the speakers together), there is a USB port to allow the charging of device. This is worth noting because the speaker has a massive battery inside. With 2,800mAh behind it, there is a lot of listening time, and some bonus time for your smartphone to play with.
It can also be used as a speakerphone, but this feature yields nothing special. In fact the microphone seems very directionally dependant, with a voice emanating directly over it being optimal.
The touted device-charging feature of the speaker needs some detail here: all of the 2,800mAh battery isn't available for recharging a cell phone or tablet. The limitation isn't a terrible thing, but for those that need emergency power, knowing that there is another half a battery full of juice could be something to pull hair out over. To make it worse, if you do hit the 50 percent threshold, the Tunz has to charge up to 75 percent again before it will allow a device to leech off its power source. Even then, if your device needs more than one amp to charge, it won't do it at all. Considering the speaker is made for music and not as a secondary power supply, this is actually smart thinking by the developers.
When it comes to charging, the Tunz takes much longer than its counterparts -- this is of course due to the massive battery. Clocking in around seven hours for a full charge, it becomes something to plug in while sleeping rather than trying to wait for it to finish. The trade-off is that you can get 20 hours of use out of it in a best case scenario before it needs to be topped off.
As Bluetooth speakers get smaller, the sound should scale down as well, right? Wrong. If anything, the Tylt Tunz Speaker breaks that misconception in how it fills a room with wonderful sound. If its strong presence and sound quality isn't enough to convince someone to buy into the speaker, then the large battery capacity should finish the job. While it is true that a user can't access the full battery if charging a device, leaving enough room for the speaker to still be used for hours shows some thinking in advance by the developers and makes the long charge time seem trivial. Even at $150, the Tunz Speaker is something we highly recommended to anyone with a cell phone and an ear for music.